Camera crew on set of Alec Baldwin movie walked off prior to shooting, member says

The member of the camera crew said the issue of gun safety had been brought up, but was "brushed off repeatedly" by producers.
SANTA FE, New Mexico (KABC) -- Members of the camera crew working on a movie in New Mexico featuring Alec Baldwin walked off set citing safety concerns prior to the accidental shooting that killed a 42-year-old cinematographer on Thursday, one member claims.

In an interview with ABC News, the member of the crew said he and a large group sent in their resignations the night before the incident. He said they were on set that morning to collect equipment and other items.

The shooting happened in the desert on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico on the set of the Western "Rust."

A spokesperson for Baldwin said a prop gun with blanks misfired, striking Halyna Hutchins and injuring the film's director, Joel Souza.

Baldwin was performing at the time of the shooting, the sheriff's office said. It was unclear how many rounds were fired, and little was known about the weapon. The crew member said nearly the entire camera department walked off the set, saying the issue of gun safety had been brought up but was "brushed off repeatedly" by producers.

He said there were two previous accidental discharges on the set and claims two incidents happened on a single day "within 10 minutes."

When asked who made the accidental discharges, the crew member said he did not feel comfortable disclosing that information.

Aside from concerns about gun safety, the crew member said workers also had worries about the handling of COVID-19 protocols. He said those concerns were also "brushed aside."

"You can only threaten to leave so much, and if they don't change anything, you just have to leave," said the crew member.

Meanwhile, Baldwin said Friday that his killing of Hutchins was a "tragic accident."





"There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours. I'm fully cooperating with the police investigation," Baldwin wrote on Twitter. "My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna."

Sheriff's spokesman Juan Rios said detectives were at the set Friday morning gathering evidence and information. Baldwin is permitted to travel, he said.

"He's a free man," Rios said.

Images of the 63-year-old actor - known for his roles in "30 Rock" and "The Hunt for Red October" and his impression of former President Donald Trump on "Saturday Night Live" - showed him distraught outside the sheriff's office on Thursday.

Guns used in making movies are sometimes real weapons that can fire either bullets or blanks, which are gunpowder charges that produce a flash and a bang but no deadly projectile. However, even blanks can eject hot gases and paper or plastic wadding from the barrel that can be lethal at close range. That proved to be the case in the death of an actor in 1984.

In another on-set accident in 1993, the actor Brandon Lee was killed after a bullet was left in a prop gun, and similar shootings have occurred involving stage weapons that were loaded with live rounds.

Gun-safety protocol on sets in the United States has improved since then, said Steven Hall, a veteran director of photography in Britain. But he said one of the riskiest positions to be in is behind the camera because that person is in the line of fire in scenes where an actor appears to point a gun at the audience.

Hutchins was airlifted to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Souza, 48, who was wounded in the collarbone area, was taken by ambulance to a medical center.

One of Hutchins' final social media posts was a photo of the "Rust" actors standing together in solidarity with crew members. She belonged to the IATSE union that represents crew members. The union is to vote soon on a new contract with producers after threatening to strike in recent weeks over issues including long hours and on-set safety.

Hutchins, a 2015 graduate of the American Film Institute, worked as director of photography on the 2020 action film "Archenemy" starring Joe Manganiello. She was named a "rising star" by American Cinematographer in 2019.

"I'm so sad about losing Halyna. And so infuriated that this could happen on a set," said "Archenemy" director Adam Egypt Mortimer on Twitter. "She was a brilliant talent who was absolutely committed to art and to film."

Manganiello called Hutchins "an incredible talent" and "a great person" on his Instagram account. He said he was lucky to have worked with her.

Hutchins had Ukrainian citizenship, according to Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko. The country's consulate in San Francisco was working with U.S. law enforcement officials.

Baldwin teamed up as a producer with Souza on the 2019 film "Crown Vic," which starred Thomas Jane as a veteran Los Angeles police officer on a manhunt for two bank robbers. Souza's first credited film, 2010's "Hanna's Gold," was a treasure hunt adventure featuring Luke Perry.

After the shooting, production was halted on "Rust." The movie is about a 13-year-old boy who is left to fend for himself and his younger brother following the death of their parents in 1880s Kansas, according to the Internet Movie Database website. The teen goes on the run with his long-estranged grandfather (played by Baldwin) after the boy is sentenced to hang for the accidental killing of a local rancher.

Lee, son of martial arts star Bruce Lee, died in 1993 after being hit by a .44-caliber slug while filming a death scene for the movie "The Crow." The gun was supposed to have fired a blank, but an autopsy turned up a bullet lodged near his spine.

A Twitter account run by Lee's sister Shannon said: "Our hearts go out to the family of Halyna Hutchins and to Joel Souza and all involved in the incident on 'Rust.' No one should ever be killed by a gun on a film set. Period."

In 1984, actor Jon-Erik Hexum died after shooting himself in the head with a prop gun blank while pretending to play Russian roulette with a .44 Magnum on the set of the television series "Cover Up."

Such shootings have also happened during historical reenactments. In 2015, an actor staging a historical gunfight in Tombstone, Arizona, was shot and wounded with a live round during a show that was supposed to use blanks.

In Hill City, South Dakota, a tourist town that recreates an Old West experience, three spectators were wounded in 2011 when a re-enactor fired real bullets instead of blanks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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